Kickstarter ♥ Games: $50 Million Raised In Six Months

By Andrew Smee on September 10th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

I want to make $50 million in six months. No fair.

I suppose we all knew this deep down, but it’s startling to see it laid out in pretty graphs: 2012 has seen a massive, massive increase on games funding through Kickstarter. Eye wateringly huge. In six short months they have exploded from the eighth most-funded category in Kickstarter history to the second most-funded, and the first-most funded category of the year, having raised a staggering $50,330,275 in 2012 alone. I mean, just look at that graph. JUST LOOK AT IT.

And I do mean in 2012 alone. Look at 2011! Nothing! Pittance! Pennies compared to this year.

As with most things, it’s all Tim Schafer’s fault. The official Kickstarter Blog makes it clear that February’s Double Fine Adventure was the catalyst, creating an unstoppable juggernaut of money that is still trending higher. But has this all been a flash in the pan? We’ve no way of knowing how long it will carry on for. Still, Kickstarter’s own statistics show that people who fund games are more likely than any other sort of their users to fund multiple projects. I know I’ve funded at least five, and I don’t really intend on stopping if I hear of another project that sets me aflame with desire.

It’s a fascinating experiment. It’s worth saying again that no big-name Kickstarted title has released yet, so 2013 looks set to be the year of reckoning. It’s all so new and so untested, and at times it seems like the sky’s the only limit. Well, that and the inevitable failure to finish: Kickstarter themselves are at pains to point out the drawbacks of their own system. When comparing Board Games and Video Games, 47% of board game projects have been successfully funded while only 23% of video game projects have enjoyed the same success.

That’s a pretty large failure rate, though the difference is to be expected – board games cost a lot less to make than video games, after all. Then again, as Kickstarter says, just last week there were two games who both scored a cool million. Planet-smasher RTS Planetary Annihilation was one, and the other, board game category Bones, scored $3,400,000 over its stated goal of $30,000, which just goes to show how anything can happen.

The most important thing to hold onto, however, is the knowledge that for the moment, there exists a very real method of games funding on a scale unlike anything that has been seen before. That’s exciting stuff, regardless of the outcome.

We’ll end with a charming video of game pitches past put together by Kickstarter staff.

Kickstarter Loves Games from Kickstarter on Vimeo.

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64 Comments »

  1. TillEulenspiegel says:

    A very large chunk of that ($8.6m) is presumably from OUYA, listed in the Video Games category. DFA is a distant second, followed by Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun.

    After that, the level of funding per project drops off to slightly less ridiculous amounts.

    • Premium User Badge

      Revisor says:

      Let’s also not forget the chart shows the amount of pledged money, not paid money.

      (Still a nice development, I don’t want to sound grumpy, just point out some gotchas before joining the celebration.)

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        While true, in the comments below the article someone from Kickstarter mentions (and I quote):

        Since our launch, $47.72 million has gone to successfully funded projects in the Games category. This is out of a total of a little over $51 million to all projects that reached their deadline, which means over 93% of dollars pledged to Games were to funded projects. We update stats like these daily on our Stats page: http://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats

        • Premium User Badge

          Revisor says:

          Thank you, that’s interesting. So gamers have a good sense of what is going to succeed… Or they only bet on the surefire projects.

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            Pretty sure I’m more willing to put down money if the numbers suggest the project will succeed, and less likely if it looks like it will fail. I also believe most others are like this too. So to some extent it’s a bit of herd mentality. We only want to put down money for things that appear to already be succeeding.

  2. Calabi says:

    This is bad for publishers, it shows how messed up they. They clearly are not providing what gamers are wanting.

    • Premium User Badge

      Revisor says:

      Their revenues show they are providing what gamers want.

      Kickstarter shows they are leaving unfilled gaps in their product plans which we have known for a long time – niche, specialized games for gamers who like reading, who like old-school games (point-and-click adventures, turn-based party RPGs), who like to experiment (Knock Knock) etc.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Their revenues? Most of the big publishers are losing money, or are making money due to only a handful of unsustainable juggernauts.

        But yeah, $50 million total over a year isn’t really that much in the grand scheme of the games industry. Many games have budgets well above that.

      • Premium User Badge

        Carra says:

        Pretty much this.

        It just makes more sense to them to create an FPS which can sell up to ten million copies than it is to create an adventure game which will sell 100.000 copies.

    • Freud says:

      I don’t know why you draw this conclusion. I’m pretty certain the percentage of sales from Kickstarted games in relation to published games will be tiny in the near future. It’s not like a few games on Kickstarter, often fueled by nostalgia, getting financed means the traditional model is crumbling.

      I hope most of the financed projects will turn out ok in the coming years. I like the idea of crowdfunding but am a bit worried that projects failing because of scams/incompetence/optimistic budgeting might hurt it in the near future.

    • BurningPet says:

      Not true.

      There are two issues here.

      the amount of money being raised, even for the highest raising game (double fine) doesn’t even cover 10th of the cost of a medium sized AAA.

      if gamers as a whole really just wanted what kickstarter projects had to offer, then there wouldn’t be a kickstarter in the first place. because the publishers would have funded those themselves.

      Just imagine that one skyrim raised 10 fold more money than the entire kickstarter games catalogue have raised so far.

      • Kadayi says:

        Indeed. AAA games are massively expensive ventures. 50 million sounds like a lot of cash, but it isn’t that much Vs the development costs of the bigger titles.

        • Shuck says:

          Yeah, exactly. The total amount of money that Kickstarter has raised for all games is less than the budget of certain AAA games. (Not even counting marketing, etc. costs.) I worked on a game whose budget wouldn’t have been covered by this money, and you wouldn’t have thought it from seeing the game.
          This isn’t even remotely a challenge to publishers. Even if the total amount of money increased exponentially, the fact of the matter is that publishers pay for the development of games, and Kickstarter doesn’t. The amounts people are raising tend to be pittances in comparison to the total development costs. I fear we’re going to see a big bust as this first wave of developers finishes (or not) their games and finds that their sales figures still leave them in the hole, financially speaking.

          • D3xter says:

            Uhm, you make quite a lot of assumptions.

            First, this won’t be a challenge mainly because of the budgets they have but because of quality games like Wasteland 2, Double Fine Adventure, Broken Sword, Planetary Annihilation, Shadowrun Returns, Banner Saga, Castle Story etc. competing with their “big budget AAA titles” (which are often rather mediocre but people are buying because there aren’t many alternatives) , which we didn’t have before.

            Some of these are the types of games studios like Bullfrog or Maxis etc. used to make during the 90s but stopped and concentrated only on “AAA titles” after being bought out by mega-publishers.
            They aren’t quite Indie and low-quality and not quite “AAA” and will fit perfectly in the market just as Double Fines previous games (Costume Quest, Stacking etc.) did.

            Second you are assuming they will be doing bad, and frankly I have no idea how you can even assume that since it doesn’t make any sense to me.
            Most or all of the development budget of the games will be covered by the KickStarter campaign and in this case the developers will get ALL THE MONEY themselves instead of the publishers and a 5-7% pittance fee. They should be doubly motivated to deliver a good game.
            They will start making a profit as soon as they get the game out the door and won’t even have to recouperate any development costs in most cases.

            Seeing as games like Super Meat Boy, Terraria, Torchlight etc. sold over 1 Million:
            http://ve3d.ign.com/articles/news/63090/Terraria-Update-Trailer-Reveals-Over-1-Million-Copies-Sold
            http://www.joystiq.com/2012/01/03/super-meat-boy-surpasses-1-million-sales/
            Bastion over 500k etc. with most of the sales on Steam… and there’s always the Minecraft Indie-juggernaut looming too with sales that most of these “AAA” game studios are only dreaming about I really don’t see what you are basing your hypothesis that they are going to do “badly” on (can they even do badly, seeing as the entire development budget is already paid for and everything else will be pure profit?)

          • BurningPet says:

            Most of those games can’t fund themselves on the kickstarter alone. and i am not even taking into the account all the rewards they have to spend money on or the fees to kickstarter and amazon.

          • D3xter says:

            Except that they aren’t developing Battlefield 4 here exactly, none of them are trying to “compete” with that and if they can’t make it with the money, they should have planned accordingly? Also it’s not like studios ever before took out a loan or similar and developed a game on minimal salary just on the off-chance they can get a publisher, right?

            It’s not like only a small percent of game pitches to publishers (what 3-5%?) even get their funding in the first place and the big ones like EA/Activision/THQ etc. are cancelling projects and closing studios left and right anyway and laying off people.
            http://kotaku.com/5876693/every-game-studio-thats-closed-down-since-2006

            I honestly don’t get the pessimism, from the “business models” we’ve had so far this seems the best by far when it comes to conditions offered, pre-fund your entire development budget if you plan accordingly and profit off of your product entirely without having to answer to publishers/investors and their demands too much.
            What better conditions can there be other than outright being given all the money for free or winning the lottery?

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            Exponentially isn’t a ratio, it’s a function. So saying something increases exponentially means that over time it is raised along a curve approximating an exponential progression.

            Meanwhile, any value increasing exponentially will overtake any fixed value rather quickly.

            So I don’t think you meant that.

            Oops, sorry, my Tourette Pedantry is flaring up again.

    • D3xter says:

      It’s funny since they could have funded the development OF THIS AMOUNT OF DIFFERENT GAMES with “only” $50 Million and profitted from it, but instead they stick ~$200 Million+ in one single game alone and disregard everything that can’t become a “Billion dollar franchise”.

  3. gschmidl says:

    The chart’s file name is … revealing.

  4. bad guy says:

    big ‘n’ veiny

  5. dontnormally says:

    If Planetary Annihilation doesn’t include the Galactic War stretch goal (the feature I want) I won’t vote for it (give them my money).

    You know, like video games have always worked.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      But then if everyone took that approach who wanted a stretch goal, it’d be much harder to reach. Why not pledge now, in order to help it get to the goal (and help keep the momentum) and pull your pledge if it looks like it won’t make it? No money leaves your account until funding day.

      Also, Kicktraq is a useful tool for predicting how it’s doing. The ‘trending towards’ figure is pretty much worthless, but the projection is reasonably accurate towards the end of a project’s life, and at the moment it’s predicting somewhere between 1.76 and 2.15 for Planetary Annihilation. That also doesn’t take into account the end of project bump projects tend to get, so it’s looking likely to hit the 1.8 needed! So, good news.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Cinek says:

    Kickstarter brings the stuff that we got back in ’90s: A games that feel like Xmas when opening – the boxes full of surprises. The titles from genres that were long forgotten – space sims, adventures, non-conventional strategies. All the stuff that publishers don’t want. But people do!

  7. Berstarke says:

    Let’s hope the percentage of sucessfull fundings raise. Meanwhile, it’s good to see crowdfunding enhancing the indie market. Now, instead of having to finish the game first, developers can actually have food during development stages! Let’s hope they don’t get spoiled and start demanding superfluous treats like “baths” or “time with their children”.

  8. BurningPet says:

    Btw, is it just me, or does the whole concept of stretch goals starts to feel more and more like most DLC does- stuff that should be in the original!

    • Premium User Badge

      Revisor says:

      It might be just you. I trust the devs know what they can afford at what budget and use stretch goals accordingly.

      • BurningPet says:

        Oh really? what about ridiculous stretch goal that upon achieving are actually only upgrade a certain pledge reward? you know, like most of the Homestruck Adventure game kickstarter?
        And its certainly not the first time i have seen such things.

        Oh, and btw, i bet some Devs have a solid, honest plan regarding stretch goals. but i bet for many its mostly a marketing strategy to prolong the pledging going.

        • Premium User Badge

          Revisor says:

          Obviously you’ve been burned. The games I funded used the stretch goals reasonably.

          • BurningPet says:

            Well, i only backed one game so far, and that one didn’t have any stretch goals (Castle story). maybe its the marketing manager in me that is forced to see marketing strategies in honest stretch goals, or maybe its just what shuck said, they are forced to state a “reasonable” first goal and then stretch it to their actual goal.

        • Shuck says:

          Even if it is so, Kickstarter’s dynamics pretty much make it necessary. If you ask for too much money upfront, people won’t give you any. No one asks for the full development cost of a game (even Double Fine), so pledgers’ expectations about what constitutes a reasonable amount of money are skewed. Worst case scenario, developers ask for less money than they need to get anything done, but the best case is that they ask for what they need to finish the bare bones of the game (having already sunk their own money into it) and hope that stretch goals get them enough to build the game they want to make.

          • SurprisedMan says:

            Actually Double Fine did ask for the full budget of the game. Pretty soon after funding they put up a post going through (in some detail) what the money buys. A few hundred k goes on the documentary, several more on the rewards and delivery (the delivery costs are about 200k alone) and that leaves about 2.2 million for the game budget, a little bit higher than some of their recent downloadable titles. Then they went through how many staff members that buys (they’ll have a core team of 11 working for the better part of a year) plus all the other kinds of expenses that go into making it, such as outsourcing the music to Peter McConnell and so on. The Kickstarter was the budget, and there are latecomer backers via paypal, which might help, but at last count there’s only been about 3000 of those, so that won’t buy a lot more.

          • SurprisedMan says:

            Re-reading, perhaps you meant that the 400k they originally asked for wasn’t the full budget? Well – also not true, it’s just that the game they would have made at 400k would have had a team about 3 and much smaller and less ambitious in scope. They described all this in some detail :)

          • MondSemmel says:

            Also, Double Fine had no way of expecting the kickstarter explosion that followed. They started that, remember? In fact, despite their excellent reputation, they were somewhat worried before launching the kickstarter whether they would even reach their modest goal. When their goal was exceeded, they budgeted accordingly and changed the size and scope of the game, announced ports to other platforms, etc.

        • sub-program 32 says:

          If I may defend it here, the Homestuck adventure game has five revealed stretch goals. Only 2 are pledge upgrades. Another adds more languages to the game, and the other two add support for Macs and Linux. So most of the stretch goals so far are actual upgrades to the game itself, and further stretch goals are also likely to improve the game. The pledge upgrades are normally at the half-way mark of each 100 000, and they appear less significant than the “main” stretch goals.

          However, this practice of pledge upgrades as stretch goals may be in place in other Kickstarters. You may be right if a majority do that. If.

    • Moraven says:

      If they get more money, they can hire more or contract out work to help achieve that goal while still shipping the game at the time they plan to release it.

      Otherwise if they get enough just for the game, they can always add that content after release to try to attract new sales.

  9. Sidion says:

    Hmm, can someone tell me how much of the pledged money Kickstarter gets once the donations are actually collected?

    • Premium User Badge

      Revisor says:

      Use your browser, young padawan.
      Kickstarter takes 5%, Amazon takes 3-5%
      http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/creators#WhatFeesDoesKickChar

    • Emeraude says:

      Anyone else feels they need to implement a ceiling to how much Kickstarter can syphon out of one project ? The percentage made sense when juggling with many small projects, but I can’t help but think all those recent big projects makes it a bit too much.

      • InternetBatman says:

        If you think of Kickstarter as a marketplace for preorders, 10% is paltry compared to Steam’s 30% and Steam’s 30% seems pretty fair.

      • MondSemmel says:

        Kickstarter does tons of things which scale with the number of backers, though. For example:
        - A significant portion of backers come from kickstarter itself; they encounter projects through kickstarter.com. You could say that part of your 5% buys you advertising from Kickstarter.
        - Bandwidth: Only a small proportion of people going to a kickstarter site watch the project video, and a far smaller number of them pledge. Bandwidth costs for big projects should not be considerable.
        - Support: I’m not sure what exactly kickstarter do here, but I assume it’s not totally insignificant.
        - Safety and security of backer data: I assume they know what they are doing. In any case, that should cost money, too.
        There’s probably tons more if you think about it longer.

        (I’d rather you complained about the 5% of the money going to Amazon Payments, but I guess Amazon are in the position to set the price – after all, they were the only major payment providers who actually supported the type of pledges which Kickstarter is based on. I’m still not sure whether anything has changed in that regard.)

  10. Squishpoke says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but it certainly looks like it’s set up to come crashing down with the fury of God’s fist.

    • Emeraude says:

      First project to fail is probably going to be the first real test of the durability of the model.

  11. joshg says:

    You’ve got a typo in your headline.

    “$50 Million Raised In Six Months” should probably read “$50 Million In Preorders In Six Months”.

  12. Hoaxfish says:

    I would’ve said that video games get a leg-up compared to physical product because they can be digitally delivered (i.e. no worries about international package delivery, factory manufacturing costs spirally, etc)… but if these stats are also including board games (and if I read it correctly, board games have one up on video games) then I guess that’s at least partially wrong.

    Of course, “product-less” projects (like touring theatre projects etc) seem like the “charitable” end of things, since there’s only minor backer-rewards (e.g. t-shirts) seem to have any take-home permanence.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Rikard Peterson says:

    I helped Kickstart a game in 2010. It had a budget of $1000. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      It is interesting to see how popular some kickstarters are. If thousands of people pledge $1.00 (and most people will pledge more than that) you’ll quickly get into the thousands of dollars. Hence the use of shinies (stretch goals), steadily giving out more information and encouraging the pledgers to spread the word. They know a lot more people have discovered kickstarter.

      Kinda like the bundles this thing is likely to last, although it may be decline a bit after some time. I don’t think it’ll stay this big continuously. Then again, there are a lot of people on the internet.

  14. Emeraude says:

    What I’d love love to evaluate is how much of this is cannibalizing from current game sales.

    Some of the backers are people who, like me, have been growing apart from the mass market and jumped on the occasion to try another model. But how many people aren’t buying now to invest in playing later ?

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s what I am really curious about too.

      Similarly, if all your kickstarter goes into game development, and then you have paltry percentage of that as sales, the kickstarter is not doing what it is supposed to do. I wonder how many studios will do multiple kickstarters over the years. Multiple kickstarters will be examples of a failure in the kickstarter model.

  15. The Smilingknight says:

    Changing the system, in the balls, through gaming.

    What could be better?

  16. Numerical says:

    The best thing about kickstarters is that many old game developers are able to do sequels or HD remakes of old games we all love. I’m all for this new movement if it brings our nostalgia an orgasm.

  17. PleasingFungus says:

    “Then again, as Kickstarter says, just last week there were two games who both scored a cool million.”

    And another one coming this week! Exciting times.

  18. MythArcana says:

    When you look at what Steam has pumped out this year, it’s no wonder the entire Internet wants better games. People want quality and they aren’t getting much of it.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Especially in RPGs. When the only company releasing consistently good writing (Obsidian) is not that prolific and has stopped making tabletop style experiences, it’s no wonder that so many Kickstarter games have been RPGs.

      Indies have been destroying my time because I’d rather play a Jeff Vogel RPG or Grimrock than a movie.

  19. eleven0911 says:

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  20. Scifibookguy says:

    “Still, Kickstarter’s own statistics show that people who fund games are more likely than any other sort of their users to fund multiple projects.”

    I heard about Kickstarter because of Double Fine (although I don’t play adventure games so I didn’t back it), but it started me watching Kickstarter for projects I was interested in, and looking at my current profile, I’ve backed 37 now. Wow, I didn’t realize it was that many. Not all those are video games, although the majority are. A few are books, a few are board games, and a few are P&P RPGs. It also hasn’t stopped me from buying normal publisher games, either. Since my first Kickstarter project, I’ve bought “The Secret World,” “Guild Wars 2″, a bunch of games on Steam during their Summer Sale, and I’ve got “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” on pre-order. I think people will continue to buy what interests them. And many gamers of niche genres will continue to support those genres on Kickstarter while the major publishers ignore those genres.